Cheesecake or Brownies? Cheesecake Brownies!

So I’m in a theatre society and this lovely group of people are almost as obsessed with baked goods as I am so, naturally, they are my guinea pigs when I try out new recipes. Whilst scrolling through the archive posts on my new favourite blog, KatieCakes, I found something that looked so interesting that I couldn’t resist trying it; cheesecake brownies. Combining two of my favourite desserts, it seemed impossible to ignore so I rushed out to the shops in search of ricotta and donned my apron to make these beauties. 

In all honesty, I was slightly disappointed with the flavour but I think this recipe has a lot of potential. I think my pan was a little too large for the amount of mixture as they were a little thin and I much prefer thick brownies. I’d also recommend having the cheesecake mixture ready to pour in when you put the brownie mixture into the pan because I didn’t and by the time the cheesecake mixture was ready, the brownie was practically set in the pan and therefore marbling the two was very tricky. 

Nevertheless, they were a huge success at theatre society and I still enjoyed the taste. The brownie was crumbly and moist with a silky cheesecake layer. I think I might put double the cheesecake mixture in next time as well to get the ratio more equal. 

If you’d like to have a go at this recipe, it’s on Katie’s blog here. Enjoy them! 

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A twist on Bread and Butter Pudding and the Family Favourite Brownies

It has become somewhat of a tradition for me to bake brownies for my brother’s birthday every year. I’ve been using this particular recipe for so many years that I can’t remember how many adaptations I’ve made to it. It’s so popular in my house that I have to make a double batch every time and my brother eats them five at a time! As I was in Paris on his birthday, I travelled to see him on Saturday armed with a batch of his favourite brownies and boy, did they go down well! They are not the fudgy, gooey type of brownie but the silky, smooth, decadent type. They are made using melted chocolate, rather than cocoa powder, which I always find makes for a better brownie. The top is flaky and the outside slightly crumbly but as soon as you bite into it, the chocolate melts with the sugar in your mouth and really gets the juices going. Sufficed to say, this is a tried, tested and failsafe recipe. The original called for 125g of chopped walnuts but I much prefer using chopped hazelnuts and tend to use 100g because not only do the packs generally come in 100g so it’s more convenient but I prefer the ratio this way as the chocolate has more room to take precedence. I’ll pop the recipe at the end of this post so that you can all have a go!

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Two bakes in one post? I know, I spoil you but this recipe really couldn’t wait. For those of you who live in sunny ol’ England, you’ll be only too aware that there has been a fair amount of rain over the past week and Sunday was yet another miserable rainy day. As I sat home alone, I craved a warm winter pudding and immediately thought of bread and butter pudding. I’ve never been a huge fan of this pudding because I don’t really like hot raisins or sultanas but I worked in a hotel restaurant for a few months and that gave me the idea for this recipe; waffle and chocolate chip bread and butter pudding. Essentially, it’s waffles instead of bread and chocolate chips in place of the raisins – I know, why haven’t we thought of this sooner? The waffles were light and fluffy on the inside, crispy on top and soft and flavoursome on the bottom where the custard had soaked in to them. To add to all of this, the chocolate chips melt slightly so when you bite into this dish, you get a hot ooze of chocolate sauce on top of the fluffy waffles. It’s not the most elegant dish to serve but if you like waffles and chocolate, try this recipe! Image

Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownies

Ingredients: 

200g butter
200g dark chocolate
3 medium eggs
250g caster sugar
112g plain flour
100g chopped hazelnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/170C/350F. Line a deep baking tin with greaseproof paper. 
  • Melt the butter and chocolate together by placing them in a bowl over simmering water until melted. 
  • Using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar until pale (this usually takes me about a minute but this will depend on your mixer).
  • Add the melted chocolate to the eggs and sugar and mix well until blended.
  • Add the flour, salt, chopped hazelnuts and vanilla extract to the mixture and stir well until all of the ingredients are combined and there are no lumps. 
  • Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 25-35 minutes. The top will look cracked and flaky.
  • Leave to cool, then lift out from the tin and cut into squares. 

 

Waffle and Chocolate Chip Bread and Butter Pudding

Ingredients:

For the waffles:
3 free range eggs
170ml semi-skimmed milk
230g self-raising flour
30g sugar
100g butter

For the pudding:
5 or 6 waffles (the number of waffles depends on the size of your dish and your appetite and the waffles can be shop bought or homemade).
100g milk chocolate chips
25g butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
350ml milk
50ml double cream
2 free range eggs
25g granulated sugar

For the waffles:

  • Melt the butter and leave to cool slightly. 
  • Whisk 3 eggs in a mixing bowl.
  • Add the melted better, sugar and milk. Mix thoroughly and stir, carefully folding in the flour.
  • Cook the waffles in your waffle maker as per the instructions on your waffle maker.

 

For the pudding:

  • Butter one side of each waffle and cut them into triangles. Arrange a layer of the waffles in the dish, sprinkle over a layer of chocolate chips and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Repeat the layers until the waffles are used up.
  • Gently warm the milk and cream together in a pan but don’t let it boil. 
  • Crack the eggs into a bowl along with three quarters of the sugar. Whisk until pale. 
  • Add the warm milk and cream mixture to the egg mixture and mix well. Pour the custard over the waffle layers, sprinkle the remaining sugar over the top and leave to stand for 30 minutes. 
  • Place the dish in a preheated oven at 180C/355F/Gas 4 and bake for 30-40 minutes.

Giving in to the urge…to bake!

So after a couple of weeks of being desperate to bake but not having any time, I have finally had time to bake! One of the ‘flours’ I got for my birthday (see a previous post) was a medium oatmeal so as soon as I got it, I went online in search of an oatmeal biscuit recipe but couldn’t seem to find any that used ‘oatmeal’ rather than ‘oats’ so eventually, I decided to just use an oat recipe and see how it turned out. I decided on this recipe using chocolate chips and I substituted the oats for the same weight in oatmeal. The result was delicious! The oatmeal was clearly a good quality present because it was incredibly flavoursome and the combination of the oatmeal and the gooey chocolate chips was a really interesting texture. Whenever I make cookies though, they seem to flatten out and so the edges go very crispy and look unlike the nice, fat, round ones from the recipe. I don’t know whether I need more substance in the cookie so that it keeps its shape in the oven or what – this would make sense because using the oatmeal rather than oats made the dough very wet and hard to handle. I will definitely be trying this recipe again to perfect it as it was delicious. Thank you Sweet & Simple Bakes! 

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Paris, patisseries and passionfruit!

As promised, I will now be reviewing the patisseries that I visited in Paris! I went to France armed with a list of six patisseries that I had researched and was eager to sample. I only managed to visit four because they were inconveniently located in completely different parts of the city (I know…how dare they!)

So, first, I went in search for Jacques Genin’s patisserie at 133 rue de Turenne but when we eventually found this street, there was a closed brown door at number 133 paired with a confused look on my face. However, at 134 rue du Turenne, there was a patisserie! I have absolutely no idea whether this is Jacques Genin’s shop but either way it was a good find. The bakery was clearly very popular with the locals as we had to queue for ten minutes before we even got into the shop! The queue was similar to those found on the Champs-Elysées and frankly, I’d rather queue for the perfect baguette than a handbag. Perfect the baguette was too; as we got closer to the window, we discovered that the patisserie had won 2nd best and 9th best baguette in Paris (on separate years of course) so we eagerly anticipated this delicious treat. We ordered a ham baguette and a tarte au citron and they were incredibly delicious. As I mentioned in my previous blog, it’s astonishing the difference between English and French food and this baguette was another example of this; so simple and yet so perfect, I was instantly addicted. The tarte au citron was also very delicious, light buttery pastry and a sharp, yet sweet, filling that wasn’t too acidic.

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On our way to the next patisserie, we passed a very tempting bakery and of course, I cannot help but give in to temptation where baked goods are involved so we went in. I think that the bakery was called ‘Reves 180’ but I’ve included a photo anyway.

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Here, I bought a chouquette and a viennoise chocolat. The viennoise was sadly disappointing as I found it quite bland but this may have been my expectation of it tasting more like brioche, which clearly it wasn’t. The chouquette however was so simple and yet so delicious. I’d heard of chouquettes before and desperately wanted to try them when I saw Rachel Khoo make them on her TV show and in her cookery book ‘The Little Paris Kitchen’. They are almost bite size balls of choux pastry coated in sugar nibs and were very nice, I can quite see myself being obsessed with them if I were a young child in France…wait a minute, I can quite see myself becoming obsessed with them anyway! I will definitely be looking into trying Rachel Khoo’s recipe for these delicious bites and I’d like to try them with chocolate chips as well as sugar nibs.

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After this delicious diversion, we were back on our way and heading towards one of Pierre Herme’s ‘macarons et chocolat’ shops. I’ve never really been one for macaroons; they usually come in unnatural colours and grate on your teeth when you bite into them. Sufficed to say, I was quite reserved about going into this shop but I trusted my research, decided to give it a go and was very glad that I did. They were an absolutely ridiculous price so I only bought three macaroons but they were incredibly delicious and have converted me to their ways! I decided to go for the creme brulee, praline noisette and mogador (which was chocolate and passionfruit). The creme brulee was a little disappointing and didn’t have much flavour, whereas the mogador may have had too much flavour if that is even possible! It tasted entirely of chocolate and then you suddenly got a zing of passionfruit and it was shocking but I liked it. The praline noisette however was absolutely heavenly so if you ever have the opportunity, taste that macaroon!

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A couple of hours later, we finally found our last stop, Jean Paul Hevin’s patisserie. I ended up spending a ridiculous 10 euros but frankly, given the standard, I don’t even care anymore. I decided to go for an eclair and a longchamp praline. The eclair was perfectly nice but a bit rich for my likely as the cream inside was chocolate, I much prefer the eclairs I can get from my local bakery as they are fresh and light. The longchamp praline however was the find of not only the trip but the year. It consisted of hazelnut cake, praline mousse and meringue and was coated in milk chocolate and chopped almonds. So many different elements but they worked so brilliantly together and I’d go back to Paris purely for this gem. Image

Unfortunately, this was all we had time for (unless I’ve mentioned something in a previous post) but how brilliant a day was that? Definitely worth a trip. Please excuse the photos, I couldn’t take my camera with me so had to take the photos on my phone. I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures in Paris! I’ll be posting again soon when I get back into the kitchen, freshly inspired to bake just about everything!

Paris! The first extract from my diaries…

The difference between French and English food is frankly astonishing and yes, slightly unfair. I’m not talking about the high end, Michelin-star restaurant food because obviously, that will be delicious wherever you are; I am talking about the day to day general food that is available to all. Admittedly, I was in Paris so the standard of food should be good for the food capital of the world but even if you compare it to London, the food is still of a significantly better quality in France. In London, you find street vendors frying burgers and sausages that will inevitably give you a stomachache the following day but in France, I casually walked past a street vendor, fully intending to ignore it completely, only to find that he was cooking pizzas in a proper wood burning oven…in a van; how incredible is that?

Not having been to Paris for almost ten years, I’d forgotten just how much I love the atmosphere, culture and, of course, the food. I had the best pain au chocolat I have ever tasted on this trip and I didn’t pay 6 euros for it in a fancy patisserie… oh no, I paid just over a euro for it in the train station. This was another revelation of mine; pain au chocolat noisette. It was essentially a pain au chocolat with nutella inside it and topped with chocolate nibs and roasted hazelnuts, so simple yet so delicious. I am baffled as to why the English have not adopted this, given our obsession with nutella, but I will definitely be attempting a similar recipe at some point in the future.

I went to Disneyland for a couple of the days and after becoming very fed up of the food on offer, I went to a French supermarket on my way back to the hotel and bought cup a soup, bread and soft goats’ cheese for my dinner; what a difference it was to those same ingredients in England. The cup a soup tasted like real soup rather than boiled water, the bread was delicious and the goats’ cheese was the best I’ve ever had and it only cost me a euro. Now tell me, how can the French get such amazing day to day food when we have to go our of our way to farmer’s markets?

The trip to Paris was truly incredible and I have been so inspired to try out new flavours and new recipes (more on those to come!) but one of the best things I tried was ravioles. Not ravioli but raviole du Dauphine; a French version of the traditional ravioli that consists of small squares of pasta encasing three types of cheese, egg and parsley and then boiled or sauteed in butter. I had them in a pumpkin cream soup and it was so utterly delicious that I could have had three courses of this and been more than happy. If you ever have the opportunity to try these, do! You will not regret it.

I’ve inserted a photograph of the view from my hotel room just to tempt you all to read my next post, where I will be reviewing all of the patisseries I visited! Look out for that as it will be coming very soon!

Receiving flours…

I’ve never been one for receiving flowers; they make me sneeze, they don’t last very long and they’re very expensive to buy so people simply don’t buy them for me. However, this past weekend, for my 21st birthday, my parents decided to give flours; not flowers, but flours. A large, and rather heavy, box encased in purple wrapping and adorned with ribbons was holding seven types of flour. What a brilliant idea! This not only inspired me to find some interesting recipes to utilise these flours but also inspired me to start this blog. Just for those of you who don’t know but the box of flours concept was from a film called ‘Stranger than Fiction’, which if you haven’t seen, you should; where the main character gives a box of coloured flours to the love interest, who is a baker.

Baking has become somewhat of a ritual for me, it relaxes me and the products are always happily gobbled up by friends and family. It seemed an appropriate time to begin a blog because of this brilliant gift and because I will be embarking on a trip to Paris tomorrow, on which I intend to try out as many patisseries as possible and post about my findings on this blog.

Feel free to write to me about baking if you want to; I can offer advice to beginners and there will be plenty of recipes to come!